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Karrin pinned up her hair with plain, no-nonsense hairpins. Harry fluttered about the dressing room behind her, looking for something to make himself useful.

"You're the best man, Dresden," she said tersely. "All you have to do is stand there and hand me the ring at the appropriate time. I don't expect you to curl my hair."

Harry fidgeted. "I know. But I just--I mean--I haven't been to a lot of weddings, Murphy."

Karrin pinned up the last lock of her hair. "I haven't, either. Relax. It's not like you're the one getting married."

Harry blanched a little. Karrin sighed.

"It's a small ceremony, Dresden. Man up." She shimmied a little, getting her dress to sit right on her shoulders. "And if you tell me I should wear a tux again, I'll punch you."

Harry stifled a grin. "Well," he said, "it would look, uh...different."

Karrin snorted. "Stasia and I both settled on dresses. At least be grateful we didn't have the budget for real bridal dresses, or those for bridesmaids." She looked him up and down. "The material for your skirt would've bankrupted us long before the rest of it."

Harry coughed into his fist, and sidled her a look that asked if she would've really done that. Karrin met it with her usual unperterbable look. Harry grinned.

"Well, Ms. Murphy. Are you ready to be Mrs. Murphy-Luccio?"

Karrin handed him a long pin decorated with a fall of silk wisteria flowers. "I don't know, Mr. Dresden," she said, as he tucked it into her hair. "But I'm ready to find out."





Unexpected Surprise

I hadn't ever really looked around at the photos at the Carpenter house--it sort of makes me ache a bit. But I was waiting for Michael to arrive home, Molly was out with friends, and all of the other kids were at school, or baseball practice, or something wholesome and homey like that.

Despite the truce between Charity and myself, I didn't want to bother her by loitering in the kitchen while she did the prep work for dinner. (I had offered to help, but she'd given me such a look of disbelief that I'd slunk away. I'm not proud.)

So I loitered in the living room and went over the photographs.

Most of them were of the kids--Molly, all of five years old, with pigtails; Daniel, eyes big behind a geeky pair of glasses and a gap between his teeth; Hope, clutching a small stuffed rabbit; little Harry, swathed in hospital baby blankets. Good kids, all of 'em.

A few were of Charity and Michael, beaming. Or smiling. Or just generally being in love.

An older photograph sat behind the others. I plucked it up easily--being tall gives me a different perspective on the world, what can I say--and looked at it more closely.

It felt like a gut punch when the pretty, dark-haired woman finally registered.

I drifted back to the kitchen, stunned, and managed not to fall over anything. I could barely take my eyes off the photograph.

"Charity," I said as I came into the kitchen. My voice was hoarse. She turned to look at me, a frown crossing her face.

I held up the photo. "W--who is this?"

Something in my voice--I don't know what--must have tipped her off. She brushed the flour off her hands and gently took the photograph from me.

"My birth mother," she said. "She gave me up for adoption a few days after I was born. I don't know her name--this was the only thing tucked into the blanket when she left me at the church."

I ran a hand through my hair and dug out my wallet. It's not really the safest place for it, but Murphy had made me a few copies, and I liked to keep one with me when I could.

I pulled out a photo, taken maybe less than ten years after the one she held, and gave it to her.

"My mom and dad," I said. My voice was rough. "Mom died when I was born. And I know she had another son."

Charity took the old photo and stared at it for a long time.

"Well," she said at last, her voice faint. "It's good that you're staying for dinner."

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